A Night with the Poets and the Year Without a Summer
Reading assiduously about the Romantic movement brings me to daydreaming of what it was like to live back then when beauty was emphasized in the form of death and nature. I like to see myself, during a particular summer night of the year 1816, among the Shelleys, Claire Clairmont (Mary Shelley’s step-sister and Byron’s lover), Lord Byron and his physician John William Polidori discussing galvanism and the French translation of a German collection of ghost stories titled Fantasmagoriana (Tales of the Dead).
The year 1816 was a year characterized by a dark, dreary summer. It was known as the Year Without a Summer because of a volcano that erupted in the Dutch East Indies polluting the air with sulfur. The poem “Darkness” by Lord Byron was inspired by this peculiar summer.
Frankenstein and The Vampyre: how it all began
That night with the poets around the fireplace at the villa in Lake Geneva, the British Don Juan challenged his friends by inviting them to write a story about ghosts and the supernatural. From such challenge Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (soon-to-be Shelley’s wife) wrote “Frankenstein” and John Polidori wrote “The Vampyre”, the first published modern vampire story. Polidori’s main character was inspired by Byron’s personality and fame. One of the characters was also taken from “A Fragment”, a vampire story that Byron began to write, honoring the challenge, but never finished. Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote “A Fragment of a Ghost” and five ghost stories recounted by Matthew Gregory “Monk” Lewis and published by the title Journal at Geneva. Clair Clairmont didn’t write anything…
Her entire life, she felt worthless because incapable of writing a novel as opposed to his family members. She once confessed to a friend, “But in our family, if you cannot write an epic or a novel, that by its originality knocks all other novels on the head, you are a despicable creature, not worth acknowledging”.
I will be discussing the role Claire Clairmont had in Byron’s life. I intend to dedicate a post about Byron’s women and the impact they had on his life.
And now I want to conclude, adding an excerpt and an audio version of “Darkness”, a poem by Lord Byron. He wrote it a few days after the prediction of an Italian scientist who said that the sun would go down on July 18th and never rise again.
I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Morn came and went–and came, and brought no day,
And men forgot their passions in the dread
Of this their desolation; and all hearts
Were chill’d into a selfish prayer for light:
And they did live by watchfires–and the thrones,
The palaces of crowned kings–the huts,
The habitations of all things which dwell,
Were burnt for beacons; cities were consum’d,
And men were gather’d round their blazing homes
To look once more into each other’s face;